- LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists said Tuesday they had developed
a safe, effective and painless vaccine to prevent tooth decay.
- It is a plant-based vaccine that is painted
on teeth and produces antibodies that prevent harmful bacteria from sticking
to teeth and causing cavities. ``This will be a significant step to reducing
tooth decay,'' Dr. Julian Ma, one of the scientists, said in an telephone
- Ma and Professor Tom Lehner led the team
of researchers at Guys Hospital dental school in London that produced the
vaccine by genetically modifying tobacco plants to carry antibodies to
Streptococcus mutans, which causes 95 percent of tooth decay. The tasteless,
colorless vaccine was successfully tested on people during a four-month
trial. Volunteers received it twice a week for three weeks for a total
of six applications. ``What we showed is that by applying this antibody
you can prevent the bacteria that is targeted against -- Streptococcus
mutans -- from sticking to the teeth,'' Ma added.
- In the trial, reported in the May issue
of Nature Medicine, the researchers used a mouth rinse to reduce the levels
of the bacteria in the volunteers to zero. Then they applied a control,
or placebo solution, to some patients and the vaccine to others. Within
two months, the bacteria returned in the mouths of the control group while
those who received the vaccine were protected for up to four months.
- ``This is the first plant-derived vaccine
from genetically modified plants to ever go into human clinical trials,''
- ``We have now found a way of using plants
to produce this vaccine safely and in large quantities. It would not be
possible otherwise,'' he said
- The type of antibody the vaccine makes
is similar to what the human body produces in the immune system to protect
against infections. The scientists are really boosting the body's immune
system by giving it extra antibodies. ``Ninety percent of human infections
start at mucosal surfaces, like the throat, lungs and gut. With this technique
we could make other antibodies in plants to prevent these infections,''
- ``The basic principle is topical application
of antibodies.'' Planet Biotechnology, a California-based company that
is developing the technology with Guy's Hospital, are planning larger clinical
trials this summer.